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The Management of Rajamani Transport, Ltd. Vs. the Collector of Tiruchirapalli and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1956)1MLJ226
AppellantThe Management of Rajamani Transport, Ltd.
RespondentThe Collector of Tiruchirapalli and ors.
Cases ReferredIn Sasamusa Sugar Works v. State of Bihar A.I.R.
Excerpt:
- - the eight workers, not being fitters of either grade 1 or grade 2, could not really claim any 'benefit' under the award which failed to provide for them;.....between the petitioner, a public motor transport concern, and its workers were referred to the industrial tribunal at madurai for adjudication and the award of the tribunal became effective on its publication in the fort st. george gazette, on 17th april, 1951. in paragraph 14 of that award were specified the wages that the several classes of workers in the transport and workshop departments of the petitioner's concern had to be paid. the award provided for the two grades of pay in the categories of workers specified in paragraph 14. the pay applicable to each of the grades was also fixed.2. on an application presented by some of the workers to take action under section 20(1) of the industrial disputes (appellate tribunal) act (xlviii of 1950) (hereinafter referred to as the act) the.....
Judgment:
ORDER

Rajagopalan, J.

1. The industrial disputes between the petitioner, a public motor transport concern, and its workers were referred to the Industrial Tribunal at Madurai for adjudication and the award of the Tribunal became effective on its publication in the Fort St. George Gazette, on 17th April, 1951. In paragraph 14 of that award were specified the wages that the several classes of workers in the transport and workshop departments of the petitioner's concern had to be paid. The award provided for the two grades of pay in the categories of workers specified in paragraph 14. The pay applicable to each of the grades was also fixed.

2. On an application presented by some of the workers to take action under Section 20(1) of the Industrial Disputes (Appellate Tribunal) Act (XLVIII of 1950) (hereinafter referred to as the Act) the Government called for reports, and eventually on 22nd December, 1952, the Government referred to the Industrial Tribunal at Madurai, under Section 20(2) of the Act the determination of the amounts payable to the workers. The petitioner and the representative of the workers participated in the enquiry before the Tribunal and on 16th April, 1953, the Tribunal submitted its report to the Government. In G.O. No. 4555, dated 9th October, 1953, issued under Section 20(1) of the Act, the Government directed the Collector of Tiruchirapalli to recover from the petitioner the amounts due to the eleven workers specified in the G.O.; the quantum due to each worker as shown in the G.O. was what had been determined by the Tribunal and reported to the Government on 16th April, 1953.

3. Of the eleven workers, whose names were specified in the order of the Government, P. Ramalingam was a worker in the transport department. He left the service of the petitioner after the date of the award, and admittedly what was payable to him under the terms of the award was not paid to him. The correctness of the computation of the Tribunal, that Rs. 103-12-5 was due to Ramalingam, was not challenged before me. Sebastian and Chelliah were employed in the carpentry section of the workshop department. Sebastian was admittedly a hammerman in that department. As pointed by the Tribunal in paragraph 27 of the report it submitted under Section 20(2) of the Act, the award did not provide for any grades of hammermen, and the pay fixed for hammermen in the award was Rs. 40-2-6. Sebastian was entitled to that pay under the award. The Tribunal found that Rs. 388 was due to Sebastian under the terms of paragraph 14. of the award. The management claimed that Chelliah was not a hammerman but only a hammerman helper, and that he was not entitled to claim the pay due to a hammerman. In paragraph 28 of its report the Tribunal pointed out that the management itself had treated Chelliah on a par with Sebastian and the Tribunals held that Chelliah was entitled to the pay and allowance of a hammerman under the terms of the award and Rs. 395-6-4 was ascertained as the amount due to Chelliah.

4. The other eight workers, K. Krishnan, V. Sivaswami, P. Karuppiah, S. Periaswami, S. Radhakrishnan, P. Rangan, P. Chinnathambi and P. Ganesan were fitters in the workshop department. The management, that is, the petitioner claimed that they were fitters of the third grade even during the pendency of the industrial disputes that were concluded by the award, and that they were not entitled to any benefit under the award, as the award did not fix what was payable to a third grade fitter. In paragraph 23 of its report, the Tribunal recorded:

True, Exhibit W-3...; makes provision for a third grade, but in view of the fact that there is no such classification in the award, it is not permissible for the management to introduce a new grade called the III grade and contend that they were not bound by the terms of the award. The workers shown as coming under the third grade must be fitted into the second grade, in the absence of any third grade in the award. It is a significant fact that in spite of the classification into three grades by the management, the adjudicator did not think fit to adopt this classification. Deliberately the third grade was given up and it was the intention of the adjudicator that all workers should come under only two grades. I find that all the workers who are shown as being of the third grade must be treated as workers of the second grade.

It was on that basis the amounts due to them were ascertained by the Tribunal.

5. The Tribunal also reported that an amount of Rs. 96-1-2 was due to Alagiriswami, a worker in the transport department. He left the service of the petitioner. As Alagiriswami was dead, the Tribunal held that the amount was payable to his legal representatives. The Government, however, did not provide for the payment of this amount in its order, dated 9th October, 1953.

6. It was the validity of the order of the Government, dated 9th October, 1953, that the petitioner challenged in this application presented under Article 226 of the Constitution for the issue of a writ of certiorari.

7. The impugned order was passed under Section 20(1) of the Act. The order was expressly based on a determination by the Tribunal under Section 20(2) of the Act. The main contention of the petitioner was that the Tribunal had no jurisdiction under Section 20(2) to determine if any amount was payable to any of the eleven workers. If that contention succeeds, the order of the Government will have to be set aside as one passed without any valid basis. So it is the scope of Section 20(2) of the Act in relation to the facts of this case that I have to consider.

8. Section 20 of the Act runs:

Recovery of money due from an employer under an award or decision.-(1) Any money due from an employer under any award or decision of an Industrial Tribunal may be recovered as arrears of land revenue or as a public demand by the appropriate Government on an application made to it by the person entitled to the money under that award or decision.

(2) Where any workman is entitled to receive from the employer any benefit under an award or decision of an Industrial Tribunal which is capable of being computed in terms of money, the amount at which such benefit should be computed may, subject to the rules made under this Act, be determined by that industrial Tribunal, and the amount so determined may be recovered as provided for in Sub-section (1).

(3) For the purpose of computing the money value of a benefit the Industrial Tribunal may, if it so thinks fit, appoint a commissioner, who shall, after taking such evidence as may be necessary, submit a report to the Industrial Tribunal, and the said Tribunal shall determine the amount after considering the report of the commissioner and other circumstances of the case.

9. Within the limits imposed by Section 20(2) of the Act, the Industrial Tribunal has jurisdiction to determine how the award should be implemented. It has certainly none to supplement the award which became final on its publication in the Gazette. In Silk Cloth Producers Association, Kumbakonam v. State of Madras (1954) 2 Lab. L.J. 410, Rajagopala Ayyangar, J., laid down:

In my judgment when once the award has been passed and has been declared to be binding by an order in writing by Government under Section 15(2) of the (Industrial Disputes) Act as it originally stood, the Tribunal can do nothing further with the award and has no jurisdiction to modify or even to interpret the same.

He observed further:

In my judgment the award becomes binding upon all the parties when it is so declared by Government under Section 15(2) of the Act and is published in the Official Gazette and whatever powers the tribunal might have possessed before the Government so declared the award binding, there is no power in the Tribunal to alter, modify, clarify or even interpret the award when once it has been published in the Gazette.

I respectfully agree with these observations and those principles are not in any way affected by Section 20(2) of the Act.

10. If the basic principle that underlies Section 20(2) of the Act is that, while an Industrial Tribunal can implement but cannot supplement an award, there should be no difficulty in accepting the validity of the determination of the Tribunal of the amounts due under the award to three of the eleven workers, Ramalingam, Sebastian and Chelliah. Admittedly Ramalingam was entitled to the scale of pay of a second grade conductor under paragraph 14 of the award. It was only the quantum that had to be determined by the Tribunal. That, it had jurisdiction to determine under Section 29(2) of the Act. Equally admittedly Sebastian was employed as a hammerman, and he was not paid the wages prescribed for a worker of his class in paragraph 14 of the award. In his case also it was only the quantum that had to be determined by the Tribunal. Chelliah's case was really in no way different from that of Sebastian except that the management chose to label Chelliah not as a hammerman but as a hammerman-helper. In his case again it was really the quantum that was payable under paragraph 14 of the award that the Tribunal had to determine.

11. The learned Counsel for the petitioner contended that all that the Tribunal could do under Section 20(2) of the Act was to compute the money value of the benefit which had accrued to the worker under the award. The further contention was that the statutory provision necessarily implied only evaluation of a benefit other than a pecuniary benefit to which a worker was entitled under the terms of the award. I am unable to accept such a restricted construction of the language of Section 20(2). The section speaks of 'computation' and not merely of a commutation of a benefit, commutation might imply that it was a benefit other than a pecuniary benefit that was contemplated. The expression 'benefit' in Section 20(2) of the Act is, in any opinion, wide enough to include within its ambit any benefit which has accrued to the worker under the terms of a valid and enforceable award. The scale of wages is a 'benefit' under the award in question, and the qualification of the amount due to the worker on that basis is 'computation of the benefit in terms of money' within the meaning of Section 20(2) of the Act.

12. In Sasamusa Sugar Works v. State of Bihar A.I.R. 1955 Pat. 49, the learned Judge observed at page 54:

As already stated above, the award in the present case has laid down only a principle for the payment of retaining allowance to workmen and therefore so far as each individual worker is concerned, his due has to be worked out on the basis of the principle laid down there. That, as is apparent from the facts of this case, will require not only an arithmetical calculation of the figures but also a decision as to whether a particular workman does or does not in fact belong to the categories of workmen who under the award have been found to be entitled to receive the retaining allowance.

The position of the other eight workers was quite different. They were in the employ of the petitioner as third grade fitters even during the pendency of the industrial dispute which culminated with the award. The award did not expressly prescribe any scale of wages for others than those in grades 1 and 2. Nor did the award in express terms direct that there should be only two grades, or that all the fitters other than those in grade 1 should be placed in grade 2. It may be that the omission was not intentional. Nonetheless that it was an omission in the award does stand out. The Industrial Tribunal that passed the award specifically provided only for the wages payable to fitters in grade 1 and in grade 2 and did not decide what should be paid to those outside either of these two grades. The eight workers were unfortunately not in either of the two grades for which the award made specific provision. On that principle laid down by Rajagopala Ayyangar, J., with which I respectfully agree, it was not open to the Industrial Tribunal exercising the limited jurisdiction vested in it by Section 20(2) of the Act, to interpret the award and decide on the basis of that interpretation that the award must be deemed to have placed every one of the fitters other than those in grade 1, in grade 2. That would really be a case of supplementing the award, and that the Tribunal had no jurisdiction to do either under Section 20(2) or under any other statutory provision. Omissions in an award, deliberate or unintentional, cannot be rectified by recourse to Section 20(2) of the Act, the scope of which is limited. The eight workers, not being fitters of either grade 1 or grade 2, could not really claim any 'benefit' under the award which failed to provide for them; and unless there is a benefit that could be claimed, no question of computation could arise under Section 20(2) of the Act. The jurisdiction under Section 20(2) is only to compute an existing benefit for which the award provides, and not to discover a benefit by a process of interpretation, clarification or rectification of an award.

13. In my opinion, the Tribunal had no jurisdiction to decide that any given sum was due to any of these eight workers. As I have pointed out, their claim fell outside the scope of the award. To that extent the order of the Government based on the report of the Tribunal under Section 20(2) of the Act and passed under Section 20(1) of the Act was one passed without jurisdiction, and to that extent the order of the Government is liable to be set aside.

14. The rule will be confirmed and the petition allowed to the extent indicated above. There will be no order as to costs.


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